Shout what out? Allahu Akbar!?
In the explosive tension of modern international reality, to hear that shout – if you’re on-the-street in any nation connected with western civilization – you’ll probably grab your companion(s) and run for cover, fearing imminent attack. The Arabic call – translated “God is Great” – often precedes a martyr’s act, seeking divine favor in return for self-sacrificial mass murder.
How clever of the Evil One to turn truth into terror with a shout. God is, in fact, great… but it’s Jehovah, not Allah, whose greatness is the ultimate truth. Noted atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything in 2007. Upon his death in 2011, he discovered the truth, too late for it to change his eternal status. If he could, what would Mr. Hitchens shout today?
This week, in America, we seek to highlight a value that has become diminished in the contemporary culture. Why is Thanksgiving disingenuous today? The continuum that produces that characteristic – and, that gives it outlet – has been broken.
Thanksgiving is on Thursday; the entire week presumes to focus our national attention on gratitude. How widespread this week – or, anytime – is the experience of genuine thankfulness among the rank-and-file citizens who will take Thursday and Friday “off” – with pay – though wading through the weekend as unsophisticated bystanders as the gratitude parade goes by?
What is the process by which appreciation is legitimately felt and expressed? Here is what births gratitude, and where it leads.
It starts with God is Great. Jehovah is the ultimate Source; he is dependent on – and beholden to – no one. He exists in eternal self-sufficiency; he has need of nothing and no one. He – God who is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the One True God who is above all, and in all.
God’s greatness results in God’s Grace. Because God – the Almighty who presents what can be known about him in his Eternal Word, and through his Eternal Son – is great, he chooses to demonstrate his greatness in his Grace, which is the favor he provides on all of mankind but focuses specifically on those who respond to his offer of salvation through faith in the work done by the Lord Jesus to resolve the problem of sin and death through his death and resurrection.
When Grace is received and understood to be the ultimate gift, the only rational response is Gratitude: when the Holy God pours his Grace on his unholy, rebellious creation to bring life from death and hope from futility, Gratitude becomes the genuine expression from the redeemed to the Redeemer. Thanksgiving is the irrepressible answer to the call of God to enter into his family through faith.
Gratitude leads to Generosity. When Gratitude is flowing – not forced by a round-table ritual while waiting for a holiday feast, but by a heart-felt expression that cannot be throttled – it must have an outlet. One of those is the expression of Generosity which answers the need for actions that flow from all that precedes. Generosity distributes the benefits generated by this profound succession that is sourced in God and ultimately benefits all who will become recipients of his original intent.
God is Great. God’s Greatness distributes Grace. Grace changes everything, and stimulates Gratitude. Gratitude cannot be contained; it demands Generosity. Miss any step, and the process fails. Any attempt to complete the path to Generosity without the prior provisions will be an inadequate attempt to create a godless alternative lacking legitimacy in the end.
The cry of the terrorist is Allah is Great, and it results in death and destruction. The shout of the redeemed is Jehovah is Great, and it results in Grace, Gratitude and Generosity.
Keep the turkey in the kitchen until you can make the case with the sheep around your table on Thursday: God is Great, Greatness gives Grace, Grace evokes Gratitude, and Gratitude fosters Generosity. You’ll be standing out from a society unacquainted with the Great God Jehovah!